Mutant “lefty” snail named Jeremy finally finds a mate – thanks to a Twitter hashtag

Even snails use online dating
Jeremy the snail (bottom) had been out of luck in his love life. Born with a one-in-a-million mutation that causes his shell to spiral counter-clockwise, he's unable to mate with any of his fellow snails with shells that spiral the other way. With help from some erstwhile researchers and #Snaillove trending on Twitter, Jeremy was able to find a soulmate, Lefty (top). Angus Davison/University of Nottingham

Finding a soul mate has never been easy, and it’s even harder if you’re a snail who’s a “lefty”. Jeremy the brown garden snail is a rare mutant whose shell spirals counter-clockwise, which makes it basically impossible for him to mate with 99.9999 percent of his compatriots, whose shells spiral clockwise. But thanks to the help of scientists and a hashtag, Jeremy the snail may have just found true love.

Counter-clockwise spirals only occur in just one snail in a million. Earlier this year, geneticist Angus Davison from the U.K.’s University of Nottingham discovered a gene that determines which way a snail’s shell coils. The gene also influences asymmetry in the rest of the snail’s body, as well as in other species—including humans. Davison hoped to breed Jeremy to learn more about conditions where major internal organs sometimes grow on the opposite side of the body.

Unfortunately, since he’s a lefty, Jeremy’s internal organs and genitalia are reversed, making it impossible for him to mate with more common clockwise snails. Technically, as a hermaphrodite, Jeremy could mate with himself, but Davison decided to play wing man. Mating two counter-clockwise snails would give richer genetic data and make for more interesting science.

To find another of these one-in-a-million snails, Davison called on citizen scientists. #Snaillove spread the word on Twitter, and the story got picked on on BBC and several other news outlets. The media attention paid off: Jeremy has been taken to Ipswich to meet Lefty, another counter-clockwise snail.

Lefty’s owner will watch over the tryst and see if the two hit it off, keeping an eye out for “love darts,” which a press release describes as “sharp spikes made of calcium which snails stab into each other’s bodies during the process of mating.” How romantic.

Plus, if sparks don’t fly between Jeremy and Lefty, a third potential mate has turned up in Spain. Dang, Jeremy, when did this turn into an episode of the Bachelor?

Whichever mate Jeremy ends up with, it’s sure to be a one-in-a-trillion pair. And if there’s hope for this guy, there’s hope for all of us.